Privatising residential care for elderly people: The geography of developments in Devon, England

D. R. Phillips*, J. Vincent

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The growth in numbers of very elderly people is becoming a trend in many Western societies. Often, these people may come to require some kind of assisted living environment. In Britain during the 1980s the overwhelming growth of residential accommodation has been in the private rather than the public sector. This has links with a number of other trends in health care and other sectors of the economy which are moving towards privatisation. The reasons for this are discussed and a case study of the county of Devon introduced. A survey of about one-quarter of all 450 homes in the county in mid-1984 revealed that they had important characteristics as small business. Countywide, a marked concentration of private residential homes has developed in some coastal 'holiday' locations. However, there have recently been changes in this pattern and growth of numbers of homes in some main towns also. There have been certain adverse reactions to the growth of homes and in a few areas, planning authorities have attempted to prevent the development of local concentrations of homes. This has been related to other policies elsewhere to prevent the concentration and ghettoisation of service-dependent groups. The nature and results of such planning policies are briefly considered. The paper addresses the overall questions of the type of care we wish to provide for our elderly people and whether privatisation of this aspect of health and welfare services is justified. This poses an important area of research for medical geographers interested in service delivery and aspects of equity in health care provision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-47
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Britain
  • elderly
  • residential care
  • welfare planning


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